Ollie Wood

I’m Ollie, I’m 26, I run a business as my day job, and I volunteer as the UK Youth Commissioner for The Scouts, which means it’s my role to ensure that our 475,000 youth members are empowered to speak up and take the lead; it is all about ensuring young people have opportunities to develop life skills. I also volunteer more locally running a Scout group and leading international expeditions.

What was the path that lead you to today?
I have always felt incredibly fortunate to have been a Scout. The opportunities and experiences I have had have helped me develop confidence, values-based leadership skills as well as the ability to listen, rise to every challenge and be resilient. So, I am really keen now to help as many young people as possible develop the skills they need to succeed.  

Who inspired you to do what you do?
I have been inspired by the thousands of selfless volunteers I have met over the years; people who have busy lives and hidden struggles, but will put others before themselves and give their time and skills so generously. They make our world a better place; and I think we should all do our best for others however we can.

What have been the biggest obstacles you have encountered?
I think that as a younger person, working with others who have more experience than you can sometimes feel daunting. I have realised that it’s important to value your own voice; appreciate that difference is a positive thing and not to be afraid to speak up. In Scouts we offer a safe space to make mistakes and learn from them; it is how we develop and improve and we really shouldn’t be afraid of making mistakes along the way.

Biggest triumphs?
I feel very proud to have led a number of international trips; such life-changing adventures to countries such as Mongolia and China, Canada, and soon, Bangladesh and India. To be able to facilitate such opportunities for young people is a huge privilege; it is so rewarding to see them develop, grow in confidence, see their horizons broadened and to see them gain appreciation for our planet and its diversity. It is difficult to describe the sense of accomplishment that such moments give; the memories will always stay close.
On a personal note, I feel proud to have started a business aged 24. It was a huge leap and comes with big challenges and a steep, never-ending learning curve. Three years in, it was the best thing I could have done and I love seeing hard work pay off. I think it is so important to stay true to our values and so building a business based on foundations of honesty, integrity, respect, care and co-operation has been rewarding.

What is the most important lesson life has taught you?
Never to underestimate the value of kindness. Whether it is listening to someone, making them smile, checking they’re OK or just generally being positive around others, you never know the difference you’ll make to them. I try not to let challenges get me down, but rather see the opportunity to overcome them as something positive.

I used to get quite stressed about the smallest of things; it really wasn’t good for me. It dawned on me on an international trip to a small tropical island, when I was surrounded by people who came across as the most upbeat, positive, smiling and friendly people I had ever met, but who materially had very little, that I needed to put things into perspective. When I am feeling low at any point now, I think back to that trip and those people, and try to be a little bit more like them. Their positivity was infectious and just thinking about them makes me smile; wouldn’t it be great to have that effect on others?

Why is getting outdoors so important in modern life?
We need more green time and less screen time; everyone does! We live on a beautiful planet and I think it would be a great shame not to make every effort to explore as much of it as possible. To explore and to discover betters us as people; I love meeting new people, learning about new cultures; enjoying the beauty of the natural world and pursuing outdoor recreation. It is exhilarating and uplifting and so good for our wellbeing. That’s why it is so important to give young people opportunities to get outdoors and enjoy adventure.

Amongst all the endeavours you have been involved with, which is the most unforgettable and why?
I will never forget leading a group of young people to the World Scout Jamboree in the USA. The 36 teenagers from my home County were part of a gathering of 50,000 Scouts from over 170 countries around the world. The opening ceremony was in a natural amphitheatre with everyone in the same space. Some came from the poorest regions of the world, some from countries who had grown up with war, others from remote rainforest settlements, through to our group from Lancashire in the UK. Looking around that space at that moment, with everyone laughing, singing, dancing and smiling together, you realise how our differences can become our strengths, and how everyone can, and should, live in harmony. I will never forget that experience.

Why is this particular project so important to you?
Unsung Heroes is a way of recognizing people who are amazing, selfless, have a determined spirit and a big heart, but often don’t know it. They’re individuals who deserve recognition for who they are and what they have done. And, without this project, they might not be recognized at all. So it is hugely rewarding and inspiring to hear so many uplifting stories.

Who have been unsung heroes in your life?
My grandparents. I feel very fortunate to have been able to spend time with them growing up. Having people who listen to you, reinforce everything you do with positivity, let your curiosity thrive, educate you, broaden your horizons and role model values has a great positive impact on who you become in the future. So, I feel that I owe them a lot in my development over the years.

Do you have a motto you live by?
Say yes to every opportunity (and work out the detail later!). I would not have enjoyed any of the experiences and opportunities that have come my way if I hadn’t said yes, explored them, left my comfort zone and taken a few risks. However life pans out; if I have taken every opportunity, given back, helped others, been kind and seen the world, I feel that I’ll have lived it well.